house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Edinburgh to Perth, autumn 1995

In a borrowed car, going to see the in-laws. You drive, I'm in the back holding and feeding Nikita, our orange baby, now 6-months old. He's not in his seat (hungry bear, no patience) and I can't breastfeed with the seat belt on. If this were a spaceship, the two of us would be floating.

No stars. A black motorway glistens with the boredom of a million wheels, stretches all the way to everywhere, finds a way to wriggle and yet stand completely still.

I grow sleepy. Niki now asleep, milk bubbles around his lips, chortles once in glee. I open my eyes and see something strange. The car is veering a bit close to the edge of the road. I wait for you to straighten the wheel – no, it rolls on, now faster, closer, I see the verge and beyond, unnamed horror. A scalding wave of fear. 'Moona' – I gasp (no time for more).

We hit the verge. Your eyes fly open and at the same time your arms yank the wheel the other way. We dash to the right through three empty lanes, lights flicker and flow around us, a small silent moment then THUMP. We've hit a centre pillar. Nothing's hit us. Smoke everywhere, the car is still.

You turn and lunge towards us in bewildered concern. Niki has made no sound, there's roaring in my ears and my teeth chatter. I'm elated: it's over, and we're OK. So sweet, your worry. 'We need to move the car' I croak, 'does it start?'

It turns out it does, and moves but only to the verge. There it fizzes for a bit and dies.

Shoulders and forehead hurt a bit and I find I can't speak very well because my jaw won't unclench. Arms are jelly. You're everywhere, shocked and busy. Niki hasn't even woken up from his nap. Someone is summoned and comes to the rescue.

Later we find out what happened when the car hit the pillar. My arms turned into a soft cage around my baby. Propelled forwards I curled around him and instead hit the front seat with my forehead - its back rest, bent double, now lay on the seat.

I had felt nothing. We were lucky. I wonder sometimes: what made Nikita chortle in his sleep, right that minute?

Some crossroad of fates.


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